Firms rally to fund Covid-19 research and health solutions

heath tech

The NHSX, the American Heart Association and CcHub are all offering grants to tech companies

NHSX

In the UK, NHSX, an organisation formed to drive the digital transformation of health and social care, has announced £500,000 of funding to put towards new health and social care technology that can be scaled ‘within weeks’ to support those self-isolating due to coronavirus.

NHSX Chief Executive Matthew Gould said that the scheme, named Techforce19, will allow NHSX to accelerate the development of digital solutions so that, within weeks, they will be able to help those in isolation that are suffering from loneliness, mental health issues and other problems.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Staying at home and avoiding contact with others will be absolutely necessary in reducing the spread of this virus and ultimately it will save lives. However, we know isolation is not easy − especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others. If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge.”

He added: “Techforce19 will mobilise the UK’s incredible reservoir of talent to develop simple, accessible tools that can be rolled out quickly and help tackle the effect of social isolation. I am calling on our brilliant tech sector to take on this challenge.”

But the challenge is not a simple one. Many tech firms have stressed that the Techforce19 scheme does not allow them enough time to create workable solutions. For example, Health Tech Consultant and Investor at healthtech company TenX Health Joe Stringer reasons that ‘with the best will in the world’, startups will take at least six months to develop a solution that nails product/market fit. “If solutions aren’t already in use, their impact will be limited to post [coronavirus] peak or in 12-18 months’ time,” he said.

American Heart Association

Over in the US, the American Heart Association is giving US$2.5 million to research efforts to better understand the coronavirus and how it interacts with the body’s cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems.

Short-term projects that can produce results within nine to 12 months will be given fast-tracked research grants. The American Heart Association will also provide additional funding to the Association’s new Health Technologies & Innovation Strategically Focused Research Centers to develop rapid technology solutions to aid in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. This funding will be provided to one national co-ordinating centre, along with at least 10 project grants of $100,000 each.

The donation comes after a number of global reports indicated that those with high blood pressure or who have heart disease or have survived a stroke may be more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.

“I am extremely proud of the agility of our volunteer leadership and of the staff of the American Heart Association that allows us to pivot so quickly to initiate vital research to find much needed answer in these challenging times,” said the Association’s CEO Nancy Brown. “What more important work can we do as an organisation than activate our trusted platform to provide solutions for this global crisis.”

CcHub

African-based innovation incubator CcHub is also offering $5,00 to $100,000 funding blocks to companies with Covid-19 projects that provide communication, digital healthcare support for those vulnerable and /or infected and / or production of essential medical supplies and support for disrupted food supply chains. CcHub will also offer engineering support to the successful tech applicants.

CcHub CEO Bosun Tijani expressed hope that the funding would limit the spread and damage of Covid-19 in Africa. “Quite a number of African countries, if they get to the level of Italy or the UK, I don’t think the system … is resilient enough to provide support to something like that,” Tinjani said..

And these are just a few of those offering funding and grants. For example, the EC recently put out a call for startups and small businesses developing technologies that could help combat the Covid-19 outbreak, offering them fast-track EU funding through the EIC (European Innovation Council) Accelerator. The deadline for the call for applications was the 18 March.